Growing up, I remember reading Revelation 3:7: “What [God] opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open.” However, I had only ever heard that God answers prayers in the form of open doors. Only later, when I became an athlete, did I realize that closed doors are also answered prayers.
From a very young age, my parents knew that I would be an athlete. I had boundless energy, always wanting to run around and play games. I grew up playing several sports – football, baseball, basketball, and soccer — and enjoyed all of them. In the fall of my freshman year of high school, I joined the freshman football team and got almost no playing time. Then, when baseball season rolled around, I tried out and didn’t even make the final roster cut. These failures were due to a combination of my late growth spurt and my high school class being filled with talented athletes.
I remember feeling completely lost after getting virtually no playing time on the football team, and not even making the baseball team. I had always thought God equipped me with energy and talents to excel as an athlete, and glorify Him through my sport, but I instead found myself questioning if sports were even for me.
I think when I was a 14-year-old in high school I had a flawed understanding of God’s will. I had been told that God has a plan for me. My parents, mentors and leaders would point to verses like Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28, telling me not to worry because God will use me and take care of me for specific purposes that would likely align with my own. In my limited understanding, I thought that following God’s will meant finding the one thing I was supposed to do with my life and pursuing it only. I know now that this is a limited understanding of what God’s will actually is.
God’s will for us is to honor Him and be Christ-like in whatever we choose to do in life: whether it be in our work, in our sport, or in our everyday life. There isn’t necessarily a correct answer of what sport I should play, but rather a consideration of how I’m using the talents God has given me to honor Him in whatever sport I am playing. This became clearer to me when I pursued track after getting cut by the baseball team. I recognized that, growing up, my strength in sports was rooted in my ability to run quickly. In football, I was a speedy wide receiver and defensive back, and in baseball I batted leadoff and was best at stealing bases.
I found success in track, in cross country and distance running, but I learned that my worth wasn’t dependent on my success in the sport. Having the door closed on football and baseball revolutionized my perspective on the purpose of playing a sport. Instead of being concerned with how fast I’m running, I developed greater gratitude that I could be part of a team, and could use my platform as an athlete to be an example and leader for Christ. Even though I have enjoyed great success since switching sports to cross country and track, I enjoy more being able to glorify God in all that I do on the track and on the trails.
Had God not have closed the door on football and baseball, I would not have had the answer to prayer that I truly needed. Not only did I learn that I was gifted in running, which led to joining the track and cross country teams, but I also learned how to glorify God while continually discerning His will. This was not necessarily the answer I was looking for at the time, but I can see now that it was the one I needed. As I continue to run Division I cross country and track at Santa Clara University, I will earnestly seek after God’s will and honor Him in all that I do.
Brennan Lagerstrom is a junior on the Santa Clara University Cross Country/Track and Field team.